Picture of doctor looking into a patient's ear.

Do you have trouble hearing at times? Have you put off getting your hearing tested because you don’t want to know the prognosis? Are you afraid of what your doctor might say?

It can feel overwhelming and even scary to think your hearing may be declining. All sorts of concerns can pop up:

  • Will I still be able to do all the things I love?
  • Will my family have to do things for me now?
  • Will I lose my independence?

These worries are natural and reasonable. To support your peace of mind, let’s explore the ins and outs of hearing aids.

Terminology: Auditory Testing and Your Ears

First, let’s define a few terms for you before moving forward:

High-Frequency Auditory Impairment

The most frequent among hearing issues, high-frequency auditory impairment causes you to struggle with higher frequency stimuli, such as everyday conversation.

Sensorineural Auditory Impairment

Sensorineural is the more prevalent kind of lasting hearing impairment that can result from aging, exposure to jarring noise, genetic predisposition or certain types of medical issues.

Bilateral Auditory Impairment

This refers to the loss of hearing in both of your ears and is often remedied with two hearing aids. There are two kinds of bilateral hearing loss:

  1. Symmetrical– both ears sustain equal amounts of hearing impairment
  2. Asymmetrical– each ear has a different amount of hearing impairment

Audiogram

The audiogram is a graph that gives you a visual image of the results of your auditory examination. It assesses the volume level and frequencies you’re able to hear. Your doctor will record the lowest decibel you can detect for every frequency tested. When you need louder volumes to sense higher frequencies, the audiogram will convey a findings consistent with high-frequency auditory impairment.

Decibel

Decibels refer to the unit for measuring noise intensity and loudness. The average daily speech is about 65 decibels. Extended exposure to noise above 80 decibels can contribute to permanent hearing impairment.

Frequency

The frequency describes a sound’s pitch measured in the form of hertz. Imagine the change in sound as a pianist’s hands make their way along the keys. You can hear the variation from low pitch/frequency to higher pitch/frequency.

The Threshold of Hearing

This refers to the quietest decibel measure you can hear for every frequency.

The Degree of Hearing Impairment

Hearing loss may be categorized as profound (90+ decibels lost) severe (70-90 decibels), moderate (40-55) or mild (25-40).

Tinnitus

A constant ringing or droning in your ear in the absence of any outer stimuli. This can indicate auditory deterioration or be a precursor to hearing impairment.

Types of Hearing Devices

There are several kinds of hearing implements available. The style of a hearing aid refers to the variation in location and size. The three primary styles are in-the-ear, behind-the-ear or in-the-canal.

In-The-Ear

In-the-Ear, or ITE, hearing devices use casings that are positioned on the outer ear, partially visible to the outside observer.

Behind-The-Ear

Behind-the-Ear, or BTE, devices are positioned behind the ear and are linked to an ear mold by a translucent plastic chute. This style also can come as the Mini-BTE variety.

In-The-Canal

These devices are kept in a casing inside your ear canal. A near-imperceptible variation of this style is the Completely-in-the-canal, or CIC, hearing device.

Digital Hearing Aid

These devices have a digital microchip that can adapt the hearing aid to each person’s specific hearing issues.

Hearing Aid Elements

Here, we’ll break down the components of a hearing aid to help you understand what it entails.

Microphone

This part of your hearing aid takes in surrounding sounds and translates them into electrical signals.

Directional Microphones

These can tune into sound emanating from a particular source, reducing background sound.

Earmold

This acrylic or plastic piece conforms to the patient’s ear to hold the hearing aid in place.

Digital Signal Processor

This specially designed microprocessor inside a hearing aid improves auditory input.

Speaker

The speaker brings the improved input to the patient’s ear.

Amplifier

The amplifier cranks up the loudness.

Wireless antennae

This progressive feature is present in specific models and provides wireless connection to certain accessories, like music players or phones

Noise Reduction

This function helps the wearer separate speech from background sound.

Variable Programming

This feature enables the person to alter auditory settings based on his/her surroundings.

Telecoils

Coils positioned inside the hearing aid to link to wireless signals from other sources.

Bluetooth Technology

Technology that enables the hearing aid to wirelessly connect to various devices such as MP3 players or computers.